We're honoring the deep bond between horse and rider in our series, A Letter to My Horse. Over the last weeks, readers have submitted their own letters, and in mid-July we'll be choosing the top 3 to publish (and award prizes!). Stay tuned to meet the winners.
It feels difficult to try to summarize in a few words how much our years together have meant to me and how they have shaped the person I have become. I could write a book and fill pages and pages with memories and homages. I yearn to do that one day, but for now I thought I’d write you this letter.
I feel our relationship progressed in two stages. At first, I felt like I was a mother and you were my child. I had to protect you. Then there came a point when things changed and we developed a true partnership. You stopped being what I had to protect and became my equal. It was as if we had become an old married couple, loyal and true. You were suddenly my all-knowing silent partner. Our relationship was an unspoken agreement between us - we shared a secret.
That relationship is one that took many years to form. I remember all those years so well - all of the time I spent praying no one would sneeze near the rail in the warm-up and scare you, or clap too loudly for the rider exiting the ring before us, sending you into a terrified flee. In those early years, I had to show you that I was not your enemy. I was your protector, always on alert for what might frighten you. I knew from the beginning that in order for you to achieve greatness, you needed to trust me.
Some horses, full of charisma and natural born confidence, seem to grow taller when they arrive at the ring. Not you. You would put your head behind your loyal groom’s shoulders as we walked to the ring, wanting to be sheltered and led. All this time, you were so bashful and insecure. But slowly with time, you put faith in me and I knew I couldn’t let you down. I remember seeing danger, looking for it, and trying to avoid and shelter you from it. I admit to being a bit short-tempered at times, for instance in the warm-up ring, when others invaded your space. I knew it was my job to keep you safe, to build the trust you needed to unleash your unearthly talents. And oh, how you blossomed, my friend! You became the greatest ever. And we became one.
Someone recently asked me if I could turn the clock back and have you at the top of your game again, would I do anything differently knowing what I know now? I thought about this for a moment, but I said I honestly didn’t think I would. I think our time together was perfect. If I could do anything, I’d only take away the anxiety that plagued you, so that all you knew was confidence and joy.
I’m often asked what my favorite memory of us is, my dear. I don’t think I could pick just one. Everyone says that, I know. But it’s true. You taught me lessons I carry with me today in my life and with my young horses. You opened doors for me that I could never have dreamt imaginable. And oh, the fun we had! I can’t sum that up in just one memory. That would be unfair.
Patience, trust, respect. Those are three of the biggest things I have learned from you through our time together. You have taught me the greatness in love and respect for a horse. I look back on all our achievements and all of the adventures we shared with ultimate gratitude.
I am the lucky one. It was a true honor to be your partner, an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I visit you now in the field behind my home, I am so proud to still be your protective mother, your partner, and your friend. You are the horse of a lifetime, my dear Shutterfly. Thank you for sharing your gift of partnership with me.
With love forever,
As told to Sally Spickard.
Photos by Arnd Bronkhorst Photography.
Written by Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is an American-born German show jumper. Partnered with the indomitable Shutterfly, Meredith has won the FEI World Cup Final three times. She was the first woman to top the show jumping world rankings and the first woman to earn a spot on the German show jumping team. Meredith and her husband, Markus, operate out of Thedinghausen, Germany and Wellington, Florida.